Ya know, I've read a lot of books over the years. Fiction, non-fiction, totally fictitious crap that claimed to be non-fiction, etc. Many of them have been books that I read having been told that they would make me think. In the case of some of the non-fiction that was true. Very rarely has the fiction. I think this book changed that for me in a weird sort of way.
L. E. Henderson's book, The Dragon Proofed House: Book 3 of the Torn Curtains Series asks a question. I'm not sure it's intended to, but it does. (Queue that Venn Diagram) Seriously. At what point would life get so bad that an individual would voluntarily enter the Matrix and forget everything about life that came before? How bad does it get before someone WANTS to give their entire life up to gaming?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not here to insult people who game. Today is my day off work. I've already spent several hours playing World of Warcraft. After I write this review, I'm going to play some more WoW. Then I'm going to call my girlfriend. Then I'm going to play more WoW. Then I'll fall asleep to The Walking Dead. I love gaming.
This is different. After all, I'm doing my laundry, writing a post and calling the little woman today. The main character of the story, Christine, has made a choice that is only marginally different than suicide. For all intents and purposes, she has chosen to sink her life so far into a game named Mirror Mountain Valley that she is unable to remember anything that came before her life there. She has no ambitions for anything after she logs out. As a matter of fact, it appears that she has no way to log out at all.
That leads to a second question, and it's one that we all faced in high school: How far is a person ready to go to be popular? How much will an individual sell themselves out to get someone else to like them? The Dragon Proofed House is a thinking persons book.
I find myself surprised at how much I actually enjoyed The Dragon Proofed House. It's certainly not my typical fare. Don't get me wrong. It was a good time. It was just... different. There are no explosions here. For that matter, there is no real violence of any kind. There is certainly some social intrigue, but nothing like the political maneuvering that would be familiar to a fan of the Battletech novels. Despite all of that, it's still a really good story.
I couldn't help but root for Christine throughout the book. If you like the underdog, you'll love her too. Despite the trials and tribulations the game sends her way, she's bound and determined to do everything she can to help herself. If she finds that things don't always go the way she wants them to, well, we've all been there. She doesn't give up. She doesn't give over to whining and trying to wish herself to success.
And that was a welcome surprise, because the first few pages gave me a Bella-like feeling. Fortunately, that goes away quickly. Henderson seems to have succeeded where Stepanie Meyers failed. I would still urge the reader to give The Dragon Proofed House about five or ten pages to get going. Once Christine picks herself up and starts working toward a goal things become a lot more fun and interesting.
At the end of the day, I think that what makes The Dragon Proofed House work is that almost everything in the book is familiar in one way or another. Christine is a person who has been through a lot but so have I. She has to fight every day to make things better for herself. So do I. Probably the paradox of her character though, is that she never gives up.
I say that because she already gave up once or she wouldn't be in the game and we wouldn't have a story. Yet, once she has made her decision to enter the game (which we never actually see "on stage") she fights to get to the endgame and stay there. And that is a fight with which I am intimately familiar.
The game plays like a virtual reality version of The Sims, except that everything constantly falls apart. At it's heart though, Mirror Mountain Valley is a game about building a really cool house and interacting with your neighbors. Money comes to the player in the form of compliment credits which can be used to either repair or improve a player's house. Compliment credits are generally given by people who like a house. It's a vicious cycle which, in its way, is comparable to some things that real world MMORPG players go through.
I kind of wish that The Dragon Proofed House were available in Dead Tree Format, because I'd love to give a copy to my daughter, who doesn't have a tablet and can't take pictures on her phone half the time because the memory is so full. I'd like to get her take on it. Don't get me wrong, I'm a man and I enjoyed it. I'm just saying that this is something I think she probably should read and would enjoy. As a seventh grader, she's headed into the time in her life when she'll be facing the popularity question pretty soon and I like the way that Henderson handled that.
Christine fights to fit the tastes of others and is left dealing with the consequences of changing her personality to match someone else's. I don't want to go into too many spoilers but it's about what I expected. That's something I'd like both of my kids to think about before she decides to work too hard to fit in.
Seriously. As an adult you can enjoy this book. If you know any youngsters who would actually read it (and I know some kids aren't going to read anything no matter what.) you need to get them a copy of The Dragon Proofed House and talk to them about what's in there. As a guy with a history degree, I don't often consider non-scholarly work to be important, but I'm going to make an exception here. I think this one is worth their time not just for the entertainment value (which is there in spades) but for what they can learn vicariously.
Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Rosebushes
The Dragon Proofed House: Book 3 of the Torn Curtains Series
Self Published, 2018
The Dragon Proofed House: Book 3 of the Torn Curtains Series is available for purchase at the following link: